Search for city leader begins

The hunt is on, for the next Sequim city manager, that is.

The Sequim City Manager Selection Process Committee, comprised of city council members Ken Hays and Erik Erichsen and former councilor John Beitzel, met July 10 to outline how the city will move forward on hiring a new leader.

Questions facing the committee include whether to keep the current interim manager while the city looks for a replacement, what the hiring process will be and who will be in charge of the process.

So far, the committee has received consensus from the Sequim City Council to move forward in hiring a consultant to help streamline the hiring process.

A city manager is similar to a chief administrative officer in a corporation — handling city council directives, organizing department heads, working with city staff and overseeing the operations of city government.

The city council terminated former city manager Bill Elliott’s employment May 5 and Sequim Police Chief Robert Spinks was named interim manager.

Hays invited Lee Walton of Bremerton to speak at the July 10 meeting and after reporting back to the council July 14 and receiving the go-ahead, Hays is likely to offer Walton the consultant job. City attorney Craig Ritchie will create a contract to take back to the council for final approval before teaming with Walton.

Walton has been the city manager for several municipalities, has acted as a hiring consultant and has done freelance work for Prothman, a professional search, or “headhunter,” firm.

The interim

During the committee meeting, Hays expressed concern that the council was putting too much pressure on Spinks, asking Walton if the committee should look at hiring a professional interim manager.

Walton said each situation merits its own interim manager, adding that other police chiefs have become great city managers. He said hiring a professional could bring a fresh perspective to the city’s operations, but that the professional also could become a “bull in a china shop.”

Spinks spoke up stating he was willing to stay until the process was finished.

“You should hire a consultant to shepherd the hiring process,” said Pat Clark of Sequim from the audience. “I think it would be a mistake to have a consultant come in to do this work and have him be a city manager as well.”

Discussions also led to a blending of the two options, where the consultant could assist Spinks as the interim.

Advised steps

Walton said if the city decides to do the process in-house, someone should be appointed to take the lead.

“It is good to have a point person and the direction that person should take in the hiring process because it can become cumbersome and there can be missed opportunities if every topic and decision must come back to the committee or council,” Walton said.

Walton said the city would need to create a few documents before advertising the position as open, such as a city project list, issues list, a description of a city manager’s role, desired qualifications and a description of the city itself.

Spinks pointed out the city has an area description, which it created when it first began looking for a new director of public works, a process that has been put on hold until a city manager is hired. Spinks also volunteered to create a project and issues list.

The committee will review the documents and decide if they will be the foundation for a request for applications. The committee will continue to meet for the next four Thursdays at 7 p.m., starting July 17.

Beyond qualifications

Members of the audience requested the committee identify and review more than just the applicants’ qualifications, but their personalities as well.

“The qualifications end seems to be clear,” said Marci Protze, with the Sequim Police Department. “But we need to look at what else we want to see in this person. How will this person bring the city forward?”

Former city councilor and audience member Don Hall agreed.

“We need someone who is more outgoing, someone that is willing to go to clubs, organizations, to speak in other public forums and market the city to its citizens,” Hall said. “I think, since we are a small town, we should look to get an up-and-comer.”

Walton indicated the city would likely find itself with candidates on both ends of the spectrum — those looking to settle down in the later years of their career or those with just enough experience to qualify.

While a lot of topics were discussed, the committee made no decision on what the process would be, who would be the lead, whether Spinks would remain the city manager and what process the city would use to hire a new manager. They will however review the options, new input from the city council and bring forward options in the next meeting.

The Sequim City Manager Selection Process Committee will meet at 7 p.m. Thursdays starting July 17 in the Sequim Transit Center, 190 W. Cedar St.

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